Brick built, his small house was centered on a short street of other brick bungalows, all of the same design. None of his neighbors knew that he was a trust baby and that one morning, at the bursting of an unusually luminous dawn, hands on the railing of the balcony of his beach side high rise, he had given himself two choices: to jump, or run away. He finally decided to give his wife the condo, all its contents, the art works, the Jag, saying “Here, it’s yours. I don’t want any of it.” What she wanted was to be famous, have the soirees, charitable balls, her picture in the society section, lunches at country clubs, hair dos on demand, designer clothing, rooms at five star hotels, vacations at jet set resorts, rock star friends, front rows seats in London theaters, lots of chocolate, chests full of jewelry and a new luxury car smelling of fresh leather every six months.
He traded his red sports convertible for Japanese economy and bought the house with its wood burning fireplace and small den in a quiet Mid-Western city. A narrow walk curved from the curb to the stoop of the front door. In winter he shoveled snow to clear the walk and the driveway to his single car garage. Mornings on clement days dressed in a pair of shorts and hiking boots, he equipped himself with hedge clippers and gardening tools for forked flower beds, planted flowers and vegetables. He battled slugs and leaf eaters with onions and garlic; aphids with lady bugs. Squirrels helped themselves to his sumptuous tomatoes which he happily shared. With bricks alike the bricks of his bungalow, he formed a semi circular patio and, after a day in his yard and garden, he sat on his homemade patio in a plastic chair next to a round plastic table and sipped Merlot. Birds hit the feeders, and he took pleasure watching them come and go.
Sometimes, he had dates with an old girl friend named Karla. Sometimes she stayed the night. She rose early, slipped into one of his fleece robes, creatures like faithful dogs that had followed him to his new home, and cheerfully brewed strong coffee, mixed equally bold Bloody Marys, fried scrambled ham and eggs. They spent afternoons staggering hand in hand through old neighborhoods and parks and fell asleep in his fulsome thrift store easy chairs trying to read. They followed this routine several days in a row until Karla had to go back to work, until out in his yard another day he suddenly looked up, remembered, and called her again.
After winter snows melted dry on the cracked garage floor, he blasted away grit with a high powered hose. He chatted with neighbors, good people with real life stories, whenever he could. Most of all, when not trimming bushes, plucking weeds, planting and picking, reading or making love with Karla, he swept. He swept back and forth with an old style straw broom, brushing the stoop, the walk, the drive and patio until nothing remained, not needle, not leaf, not dust, not bird droppings. Not one single thing. After sweeping, he knelt next to the upright broom a moment, admired the work of his hands, and then began again. He swept and swept and swept.